A Day in the Life of an Independent Store Owner

Maha Amsterdam - Saskia van Hofwegen
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No one captures the concept of DIY better than today’s independent store owners in streetwear. With the ever so changing business of retail and social media, every one of them is constantly on the move. And even though there’s no such thing as a routine, we tried to cut a slice of the life of Saskia van Hofwegen from Maha Amsterdam to see what it’s like. Here’s a day in the life of one of our favorite female hustlers.

Photography: Juliane Falk

Saskia, can you tell us something about your typical morning routine?
I have different scenarios of my morning routine, depending if it’s buying period of the season. I just take a shower, dress myself in black from head to toe (can’t go wrong with that when you’re in a rush) and do everything on the go. Makeup, emails, coffee: the whole shebang. I wake up and immediately check my email and the Maha Instagram. After I hit the shower, I absorb a little bit of sun behind the kitchen window or on my balcony while I drink my coffee and cuddle with my two pugs, Kai and Bacon. That’s my Zen moment. Eventually I walk the dogs and go to the store or hit the road for appointments.

Maha Amsterdam - Saskia van Hofwegen (Dogs)
Maha Amsterdam - Saskia van Hofwegen (Storage)

Can you tell us something about your wardrobe schizophrenia?
Yes! When it comes to clothes, I’m pretty schizophrenic; how I feel when I wake up affects my choice of outfit and subsequent moods. Most of the time you will see me in black slacks, a simple, oversized sweater and colorful sneakers. But sometimes I like shock everybody when they see me in something feminine. Hey, I’m still a woman, you know. That I have a business in streetwear doesn’t mean I don’t like heels and dresses.

What are the different roles you play in your life with Maha Amsterdam?
There’s no such thing as a typical day, as Dian and I still do pretty much everything ourselves. While our girls work out front instore, we’re busy keeping Maha Amsterdam up and running, from boring administration to our online presence. My biggest role is keeping up with buying, editorials, social and event management. Pretty much the creative side.

Maha Amsterdam - Saskia van Hofwegen (Store)

What are the media you’re checking on a daily basis? Most important sources of information?
There are blogs I visit every day for a quick update, such as Highsnobiety, Hypebeast, Complex and MissBish. I have a true addiction for The Business of Fashion website, a blog with a strategic and analytic view on today’s international fashion businesses. But the most important sources of information are my customers and other store owners and buyers, on how they experience everything. It’s good to keep learning from the people who are keeping your business alive and the people who are longer in the business.

What’s the most important element in running a streetwear store in Amsterdam today?
1. Find a signature DNA and choose brands that are consistent with it. For example, Stüssy and Opening Ceremony, they’re very consistent, but they change fabrics from season to season and they change color, so you get that familiarity but you also get that sense of newness, so it creates the excitement. As a buyer, I know I can rely on those brands to be commercially effective for us, and you can really build a successful business around brands like that.
2. Be real. It was really important to us to have our off line/online presence grow organically. As we are still a small start-up company, we don’t have a social media budget; we don’t have an advertising budget; we just focused on the creative and being as honest as possible about what we like. That honesty, of what your DNA is as a store and as people and expressing it in your own words, goes a long way.

Maha Amsterdam - Saskia van Hofwegen (Smartphone)

Do you believe in DIY culture, and what are some of the skills you have learned in your life as an entrepreneur and beyond?
I do! It’s great to see people doing things for themselves with a passion for something that sees them try to create their own rules. I feel that I’m getting better knowledge of what my consumer wants. I notice that the sell-through is getting better and better after every season. I hope that we can keep it this way!

Do you believe in the balance between free time and work, or are you the “never not working” type? Please describe your balance.
I believe that there has to be a balance between free time and work, but most of the time you can’t squeeze all the tasks in your working hours. There are times when I say to myself: “How can I stay sane, given how overworked I am?” and “Where can I get my rest?” When you’re working long hours, you really need your life away from the office to be as uncomplicated and streamlined as possible. Dian and I haven’t been on a holiday ever since the store opened, but the hard work we put in Maha Amsterdam right now will eventually pay off.

Maha Amsterdam - Saskia van Hofwegen (Mood)

What are the most important brands for you today, and what sets them apart?
For me, the most important brands are the brands that always keep moving forward and evolving whilst staying true to the history. For me, Nike is currently the brand that is steadily doing that. I’m a big fan of the whole Air Max range, and all iterations and newness are making the brand stronger than ever. Also, I love the way that women are now being taken more seriously in the industry; we’re getting more and more women exclusives that are not just pink or whatever.
Very happy that silhouettes like the Nike M2K Tekno and the adidas Falcon are being introduced to women first. A brand on apparel that’s also very important to me is Maison Kitsuné, a brand that’s always keeping their DNA in every garment they make and is also busy with collaborating with the right partners, like Ader Error, Porter and more, not just collaborating for the sake of collaborating.

What’s the most special thing about living and working in Amsterdam? What do you love about the city?
The most special thing about Amsterdam is Amsterdam. It’s a small, big city that makes you feel at home right away. And very multicultural; no matter where you’re from, you’ll find a place that reminds you of home. And in the summer, I believe it’s one of the best cities to live in worldwide.

Maha Amsterdam - Saskia van Hofwegen (Mood 2)
Maha Amsterdam - Saskia van Hofwegen (Mood 1)

What’s your most productive time of the day?
In the evening, after dinner, sitting on the couch with my laptop and my dogs beside me. The time of day that I can go through my emails without being distracted. It’s a different kind of productivity.

Last words?
Thank you for having me! And drop by when you’re in town!


This story first appeared in our July 2018 issue of Sneakers Magazine – available now!

Sneakers Mag - July 2018 (Concrete Small)

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